Pasco inmates helping to fix flooding problems

Posted at 3:57 PM, May 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-09 17:14:52-04
Don and Becky Baker still have sandbags in front of their door.
“It’s scary. Is it coming in the house or isn’t it? It hasn’t yet, but it’s come real close,” Don Baker said.
Last summer’s flooding cost Pasco County millions of dollars and was unlike anything people in parts of West Pasco had ever seen.
“It comes from all areas, into our house here,” Becky said.
But now there is help from an unlikely group.
“It feels amazing to come outside the jail and work," inmate Richard Adkins said.
Adkins and a crew of other inmates from the Pasco County Jail are part of a new program aimed at cleaning clogged storm water drainage ditches like the one off Rowan Road. The overgrown area was so backed up it caused flooding in the neighborhood across the street.
Officials said an inmate crew will save the county about $40,000 a year, made up of workers serving time for lesser felony charges or misdemeanors.
Adkins is in jail for violation of probation related to a marijuana arrest.
“It makes me want to come out into the world and do better than what I was doing,” he said.
County officials said there are hundreds of areas like this, and they just don’t have the manpower to get to them all.
They say at current funding levels, it would take 30 years to clear all the roadside ditches. That's why they are looking for alternatives.
These kind of clean ups are meant to help minor flooding issues and won’t solve all of Pasco County’s problems.
“If we got the kind of rain we got, a 500-year event, we are still going to flood. We can’t stop that kind of event,” Pasco Public Works Director Mike Garrett said.
Meanwhile, it looks like hard work. But Adkins said lots of inmates want to be here.
“I don’t want to say jealous, but that’s kind of what it is, because they’d rather be out here than stuck inside the jail working,” he said.
Pasco County is already using inmates to assist at animal control. And they also plan on forming a crew to help clean up parks.